European Wannabes

Dec. 20, 2012

For the long-suffering fans of the New York Red Bulls, the suffering doesn’t seem at an end. Well, at least they’re used to it.

Whether run by Americans or foreigners (mostly Americans), the club can’t seem to shake its Euro-wannabe desires, and if reports of Scotsman Gary McAllister becoming the next coach/manager of the club are true, the team’s faithful – and they have nothing to go on but faith – can record on stone (sorta like Fred Flintstone) a “wait ‘til next year” chant.

Regardless of who has run the club, it has never lived up to expectations, especially considering the money poured into the team and the luminary players it’s been able to attract to New Jersey: starting with Roberto Donadoni to Lothar Matthaeus to Youri Djorkaeff to its current crop of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.

But foreign coaches, particularly British ones, who have never had any previous experience in the United States have had some notorious failures, from Frank Stapleton (New England) and Bobby Houghton (Colorado) in the inaugural season, to Carlos Parreira (MetroStars), Walter Zenga (New England), Ruud Gullit (Los Angeles),  and Aron Winter (Toronto).

Yes, Gary Smith won the MLS Cup in 2010, but his regular-season record in three-plus seasons with Colorado was all of eight games above .500. And he was fired the year after he won the title.

The utter lack of understanding of MLS and the United States soccer system has doomed the Red Bulls repeatedly, most recently and glaringly in the trade last year of Dwayne De Rosario for Dax McCarty. Nothing against McCarty, but the straight-up swap seems due to a complete cluelessness of Hans Backe and Erik Soler.

The whole notion of coming to MLS for a vacation, or that somehow the U.S. league is just so much easier, also lingers. You can recall the pictures of Lothar Matthaeus and his girlfriend on the beach in Saint-Tropez or Youri Djorkaef at the World Cup — when Matthaeus was “rehabbing” and Djorkaef was addressing family issues.

Now both Backe and Soler are gone, but in their places come Gerard Houllier and Andy Roxburg, who seem to be bringing in their favored European: McAllister.

Is it a total disregard for MLS, a complete dearth of knowledge of American soccer, or an unmitigated arrogance that someone from Europe is so unmistakably better than anything they could find on this side of the Atlantic?

By the mere track record of foreign coaches in MLS, and especially some of the more recent ones like Gullit and Winter, it would stand to reason that Houllier and Roxburg would at least look in the contiguous 48 states first before peering overseas.

Chivas USA seems headed for a similar fate with Jorge Vergara’s appointment of a coach from Mexico.

This is not to say foreign coaches are incompetent, but rather to say their history in MLS isn’t a good one. And with all the foreign influence that the Red Bulls have tried over the years from coaches to players to front office, which has yet to produce one championship and only one trip to the MLS Cup final, maybe a different approach might be worth a try.

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